The Bells

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve probably noticed something. For a guy living in paradise with a supermodel wife, I tend to complain about a lots of stuff. Yeah, it’s weird, but there’s little doubt that I live the life of Riley.

Unless you’re a geezer like unto me and others in my generation, you might not have any idea what that phrase means. Basically, it means a carefree, peaceful, easy life. The phrase came into common usage around the time of World War I. And  it turns out that it probably refers to the life of a real person–Willy Reilly– who lived in Sligo, Ireland during the late 1800’s.

Yeah, who knew?

In hipster lingo this phrase most likely translates into Easy Peasy Mac and Cheesey. Possibly. I wouldn’t really know. I’m at the age where talking hip probably means you’re talking about your hip replacement.

In my defense, if I didn’t have anything to complain about, I probably wouldn’t have anything to write about. No one wants to hear about how much better your life is than theirs is all the time. And I don’t care how great your life is, mine beats yours every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Besides, complaining is a time honored pastime of retired people. It’s probably a force of habit. We did it all the time. We used to complain about our jobs, our annoying know-it-all bosses, and our fucking annoying idiot co-workers. So there’s that. Habits are hard to break.

Granted, I have less to complain about than probably anyone else I know, including my lovely supermodel wife. After all, she is married to me. I’ve stated that my sole purpose in life is to keep her happy. But I think my unstated purpose is to also drive her a little bit crazy from time to time.

There was that fan thing…

We don’t have air conditioning at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. We don’t really need it. But a couple of months ago Lea decided she wanted a fan for the bedroom because the hottest month of the year in the Lakeside Area is May. She thought if we waited until May to buy a fan, there wouldn’t be any fans for sale when we needed one. That’s kind of how things work down here.

Walmart had a veritable mountain of fans available in March. All I had to do was buy one fan that would help keep the bedroom cool at night. There was nothing all that complicated about my mission. I knew which fan Lea would buy if she had done the smart thing and gone to the store herself. I even put her fan in my shopping cart. 

And then I saw it.

An industrial strength, turbo-charged fan with a hemi engine. And that’s the fan I bought. It’s a thing of beauty as far as fans go. It has three speeds: Gale Force Wind, Category 2 Hurricane, and Blown Away. I had a feeling I had made a mistake when I was assembling it. It kind of sounded like unto a jet airplane taxiing down the runway when I turned on. 

Yep. Lea hated it.

Well, it wasn’t a total loss. I moved it out to the North Wing of the patio. From there, it directs a reasonably manageable stream of air toward the South Wing of the patio. Lea spends a lots of time out there. I thought it would help cool the patio down in the heat of the afternoon. The best result has been that Lea doesn’t hate it out there.

I bought a second fan for the bedroom, the one I had originally planned on buying, and it works perfectly. I really should pay more attention to that little voice in my head that tells me when I’m about to do something stupid…

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If you’re a Game of Thrones aficionado, you’ll understand the title of this post. If you’re not, go away. You have no business being here.

Speaking only for myself, I think HBO made a huge mistake when they filmed only six episodes for the final season. There’s just too much stuff to try to distill down that quickly.

It’s like trying to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and everyone’s birthdays over one weekend. It can be done, but it’s probably not pretty.

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“Here. Open this gift.”

“What holiday is it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even care. Look at the wrapping paper.”

“But this isn’t for me. It has someone else’s name on it!”

“Oh well, now it’s yours. Shut up and open your goddamn present, or I’ll cut you open from belly button to brisket.”

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The Bells is the title of Episode 5 of the final season. It was the climactic battle in the war for the Iron Throne, the seat of power in Westeros that everyone with a claim to has staked their lives on.

When you play the game of thrones, you win, or you die. There is no middle ground.

Truer words were never spoken. The series has gone from dozens of main characters to a handful. Maybe less. Almost everyone, both good and bad, have been killed to death. Some of them more than once.

There’s one episode left, roughly eighty minutes of opportunity for the producers to kill off two or three of the remaining characters who have somehow avoided getting beheaded, stabbed, shot, executed, poisoned, assassinated, or burned to a crisp until now.

And there was plenty of that in the last episode.

There was only one small, tiny, insignificant detail. It wasn’t supposed to work out that way. It was a given that some people would have to got dead. Queen Daenerys Targaryen had assembled all of her remaining armies outside of King’s Landing, the seat of ultimate power in Westeros, to battle the armies of her remaining enemies, Queen Cercei Lannister and King Euron Greyjoy.

The Good Guys would storm the city. The Bad Guys would see that they had no hope of victory. They would surrender, lay down their arms, and ring the bells. And a whole lots of bloodshed could be avoided. That was the plan.

Queen Daenerys had always said that she wanted to change the world, to actually make it a better place. She wanted to end slavery, oppression, and tyranny. It’s the reason why everyone fell in love with her. That was her fucking mission statement!

But then a funny thing happened on her way to the top. She was betrayed multiple times, most recently by Cercei Lannister, the lying-ass bitch currently sitting on the Iron Throne. Cercei promised to send her armies north to fight against the Night King and his horde of zombie warriors.

She didn’t.

Ser Jorah Mormont, trusted counselor and body guard to Good Queen Daenerys, was indirectly killed to death by Evil Queen Cercei’s treachery when he fell during the Battle of Winterfell. To add insult to injury, Evil Queen Cercei publicly executed Good Queen Daenerys’ other trusted advisor, the sweet and beautiful Missandei of Naath. That happened right after Evil Queen Cercei and Even More Eviler King Euron killed Daenerys’ second dragon to death.

As if that wasn’t enough, Dani threatened to kill one of her few remaining advisors if he fucked up one more time. Then she had another of her advisors executed because he really fucked up one more time. And then her boyfriend told her that he loved her, but he couldn’t have sex with her anymore. Probably because he’s her nephew.

So it was a very different Daenerys that we saw Sunday night. She was more than a little emotionally unbalanced as she went into what she called The Last War. She climbed onto the back of her one remaining dragon.

And. It. Was. On.

I’ve had mixed emotions over just about every episode this season, but this one was probably the worst for me. And just about every other fan on the planet.

Daenerys single-dragonedly destroyed an entire fleet of ships and most of the sailors aboard them. She destroyed the main gates of the King’s Landing, killing most of the army defending those gates, then barbecued all of the defenders on the walls and ramparts. So much for the pivotal role the highly vaunted Golden Company would play in this story. That was probably the most disappointing part of this episode.

Once the gates had been breached, the rest of the city’s defenders surrendered. The bells started ringing…

And, Daenerys didn’t care. She and her dragon systematically destroyed the city block by block, then she destroyed the castle. Neither did most of her invading armies. They slaughtered everyone they saw. Soldier, civilian, man, woman and child.

Hundreds of thousands of innocent people died in the process.

There is some good news in this. For once, Jon Snow didn’t need to be rescued during a battle he commanded. And some very non-innocent people finally got killed to death. Euron Greyjoy, Qyburn, and The Mountain all got the deaths they needed. Cersei probably got dead, too, but maybe not. Lea thinks she somehow survived having ten tons of brick fall on her, so we’ll see. But her death was certainly not the death she deserved.

But now the big question is this: Did Daenerys simply vent a considerable amount of repressed anger and rage at her enemies when she went combustible, or did she go one step beyond batshit crazy when she ignited an entire city on the back of her fire-breathing dragon?

The producers have certainly been pushing her character in that direction, which is really disappointing. How can you trust someone who says, Trust me. I won’t kick you in balls. And then kicks you in the balls. Really hard.

If that’s the case, someone will have to kill Evil Queen Daenerys to death to ensure that she doesn’t become the one thing she started out meaning to destroy. And she would potentially be worse than any of the tyrants she threw down when she was struggling to reach the pinnacle of power. A psychobitch with PMS, and the last living dragon. And someone will probably have to kill that goddamn dragon, too.

Eighty minutes. It’s not a terribly long time. How much can happen? In this case, next Sunday night, everything is on the line. A lots of right things have to happen, and they seemingly have to happen in rapid succession. The producers only have one chance to get it right. So, you know, no pressure.

And they all lived happily ever after…

Yeah, definitely not going to happen.

Some of them lived, and it wasn’t the most ludicrous ending we’ve ever seen.

Speaking only for myself, and eighteen million other people, that seems to be the best we can hope for right now…

Game of Thrones

I’ve been staring at this blank page for about an hour.

Well, the good news is that it’s no longer blank.

* * * *

There’s more good news. Our refrigerator has been repaired! The LG service crew replaced the compressor and reset the ice maker last Tuesday. It looks like that saga has come to a satisfactory end. Lea is pleased and as any married guy knows, if your wife is happy, it’s the only thing that matters.

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It took about five seasons of binge watching on my part, but I finally got Lea hooked on Game of Thrones. Just in cases you don’t know what I’m talking about, Game of Thrones is a TV adaptation of several epic fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin.

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Yeah, he’s a weird looking guy

I joined a GoT Facebook page, which I immediately regretted doing. It wasn’t just the stupid commentary this time. These fanatic fans seem to be in a serious need of actual lives. They. Are. Fuckin’. Out. There. I’ll probably leave the group when I finish writing this post.

Facebook is full of those quizzes, like, Which GoT character are you? I’ve never taken one of these quizzes, but if I had to pick a character, it’d be Tyrion Lannister.

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He’s mostly terrible at fighting. He’s a short, quick-witted smartass, and he drinks and knows stuff. Except for the drinking part, he’s totally me.

The GoT story takes place on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos in a setting that very much resembles the Middle Ages of our Earth. While the story contains common fantasy elements, such as swordplay, magic, and dragons, those elements are somewhat downplayed in favor of political intrigue and human drama in a struggle to sit upon the Iron Throne.

You don’t have to travel to a fictional universe to encounter plots and schemes to sit on the high throne. Historically speaking, monarchies have been our longest form of government. Theoretically speaking, they were also the most successful form of government on this planet.

During the Middle Ages of our Earth, that was how politics worked. In a kingdom ruled by a king or queen, they held the reins of power. And power evidently made the world go ’round back then.

Well, it probably still does…

History is full of stories about plots to usurp the throne and overthrow the king. A lots of people with claims to the throne spent their fortunes and their lives scheming to put their royal asses on the throne. It might have been good to be the king, but it was also probably a lonely place to be.

Being a king or a queen isn’t as big of a deal anymore. As our global system of government has evolved, royal status has meant less and less. Except in England.

Game of Thrones is an engaging story. What makes it unique, at least as far as I’m concerned, is the usual Fantasy genre distinctions between Good and Evil are very blurred. They’re so blurred that I’m not sure if any of the supposed good guys are actually good. And there’s a lots of sex and nuditity.

Well, some of the bad guys are really evil. I have to admit that I took a great deal of delight in watching them get killed to death. Especially King Joffrey Baratheon–First (and Last) of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm–that sadistic little fuck. And Ramsay Bolton, who made my skin crawl every time he appeared on screen.

In essence, if you combined Dallas and The Lord of the Rings, you’d get Game of Thrones. And in that sense, GoT appears to be a serious cautionary tale about the pitfalls of having unprotected sex with your sister.

At least two of the kings in the story are completely off of their royal rockers, probably as a result of noble family inbreeding and incest. The only good thing about the mad kings is they both end up getting dead. The bad thing about both of them is thousands of good people end up also gotting dead because of them.

But you don’t have to travel to a fictional universe to encounter this sort of thing either. Royal intermarriage between family members was once a common practice on this very planet.

Mausolus, the ruler of Caria was married to his sister, Artemisia II. When he he died in 353 BCE, his grieving widow had a huge tomb built in the city of Halicarnassus. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

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The Mausoleum of Helicarnassus

Royal inbreeding has been cited as one of the reasons for the decline of the Roman Empire. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt as well as the Ptolemaic rulers in Egypt were often married to their brothers or sisters as a way to keep political power consolidated within the family.

Queen Victoria of England was a major proponent of pure blood lines. She married her cousin Albert, and the two had nine children who then passed hemophilia to royal families throughout Europe.

Remember the Romanovs?

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The Russian Imperial Family 

And then there were the Habsburgs. Some of you might ask, Who the fuck are they? Ever hear of Marie Antoinette? She was a Habsburg.

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Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, Queen of France

The House of Habsburg was one of the most influential and distinguished royal houses of Europe. The throne of the Holy Roman Empire was continuously occupied by the Habsburgs for three hundred years. The house also produced emperors and kings of Bohemia, Croatia, England, Germany, Hungary, Illyria, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. As well as the rulers of several Dutch and Italian principalities. And the rulers of the Second Mexican Empire.

Hey, they were busy, and clearly, very motivated…

Following the reign of Charles V in the 1500’s, the dynasty was split between its Austrian and Spanish branches. Although they ruled distinct territories, they nevertheless maintained close relations and frequently intermarried.

Unfortunately for the Habsburgs, it wasn’t just the crown that was passed down from generation to generation, but also a series of genes that produced birth defects. This inbreeding caused this royal family to exhibit a number of peculiar physical traits, especially one known as the Habsburg Jaw. The most prominent indicator of the family’s inbreeding is what doctors refer to as mandibular prognathism.

This condition is marked by a protrusion of the lower jaw to the point that it’s significantly larger than the upper jaw and creates an underbite sometimes bad enough that it can interfere with your speech and make it difficult to fully close your mouth.

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Some of the Habsburgs rulers and their infamous jaws.

The last Hapsburg ruler in Spain, Charles II, was such a genetic trainwreck that he could barely speak and couldn’t walk unattended.

Mental illnesses also ran rampant throughout many European royal families, leading to some very odd behavior. For example:

Charles VI of France. He inherited the throne during France’s long conflict with England, the Hundred Years’ War. He initially appeared to be a sane and capable king and then while on a campaign in the forest of Le Mans, he had some sort of “seizure.” He violently attacked his traveling companions, killed four of them, and almost killed his brother, Louis.

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King Charles VI of France

From then on he was subject to periodic fits of violence, and his everyday behavior became more bizarre. He took to running wildly through the corridors of his palace and sometimes seemed unaware of his own name, or that he was even king – though he did once appear to claim to be Saint George. The Mad King also suffered from the delusion that he was made of glass and could shatter at any time.

Christian VII of Denmark. He would often throw food at his dinner guests, but kings can be real jerks sometimes. His reign seemed otherwise pretty normal, until the masturbation started.

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King Christian VII of Denmark

On the bright side, he didn’t usually do it in front of visiting dignitaries. What he did was leapfrog over them when they bowed to him, and sometimes he’d slap people in the face in the middle of a conversation for absolutely no reason.

Tsar Paul I of Russia. He had what can only be called an attitude towards his guards, and not a good one. He might have had a good reason for it because the palace guards had been instrumental in the bloody coups and palace revolutions that marked 18th-century Russia. But Paul developed an obsession with the fine details of their ever-more elaborate uniforms and insisted that they be kept in pristine condition.

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Tsar Paul I of Russia

Anyone who fell short of his ideal was liable to be flogged, sometimes by the tsar himself. He insisted on full parades outside his palace even in the depths of the Russian winter, and once sent a regiment off to march all the way to Siberia before changing his mind and sending word for them to turn back.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering where in the hell I’m going with this, and I have to admit that I have no idea. I’m sure I have something else to write about beyond Game of Thrones and royal incest and insanity. I just don’t know what it is yet…

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Upon further review, I don’t have anything else to write about. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s history lesson.